Tuesday, June 27, 2006

New York City

I'll be gone until July 7 but will return with pictures and stories. :)
And, of course, if possible will log in while on the road to try to read any new story entries in the Clarity of Night short story contest.
Until then, take care and keep writing!

On a sidenote, I was looking through some photos from my NY trip in 1976 and found this one.... that's me in the blue shirt -- and look at the background -- I couldn't believe my eyes.
The Twin Towers are there!
(photo won't load - I'll try again soon)

Friday, June 23, 2006

New York Bound

I think I am finally getting excited about my upcoming trip to New York. I leave in four days! I haven't started packing yet and probably won't until Monday.

(By the way - I mentioned this on my AW site, for any of you regular readers) -- If you live in or near the New York area and would like to catch a wonderful "Salute to New York" concert by the Porterville Panther Band, email me and I can have the band director send you a couple of -- or how ever many you need -- tickets. The concert will be at 8 p.m. Friday, June 30 at Lincoln Center, New York City -- so LET me know!

Last night I attended a Panther Band meeting to go over all of the last minute instructions (and to write about it for the newspaper) I got to play with my new toy -- a Pentax SLR digital -- it set me back almost $1,000 but I figured it will really help with photos.

I have been taking more and more pictures for my newspaper stories and now that I am getting paid for them by two newspapers, I really can justify spending the money. It's an investment. That's what I keep telling myself. :)

I had fun playing with the camera. This is one of the photos -- taken from my front porch. I love the clarity of the detail around my neighborhood. I had not noticed the street sign until I saw the picture.

Triple Digits -- scorching hot temperatures

We had our electricity go out twice today -- which is not uncommon during our hot summer months. Living in the Central San Joaquin Valley, we hit triple digits quite often and when we do, we have blackouts and brownouts. Most last only a few hours but I do recall one that lasted a couple of days.

Today we hit 107. Tomorrow (Saturday) we should hit 109, and if so, will tie a record set in 1885 on this date with that temperature. Sunday's temps should reach 110! (all farenheit degrees)

I always enjoy seeing the huge thermometer in Baker, California (it is the entrance to Death Valley and is on my way to Las Vegas - a six hour drive from my home) The thing is made of 33 tons of steel, has 5,000 bulbs and is 134 feet high -- in honor of 134 degrees F -- the hottest temp ever recorded there, back in 1913.

The hottest temperatures I've experienced is 121 degrees farenheit -- Eagles Pass, Texas in 1968. I watched in horror as we stopped at a gasoline station for ice and witnessed a car pull up. An elderly lady was carried out. They laid her on the counter of the small store and started placing cold water cloths on her. I thought for sure she was dead. Three days later, the same thing almost happened to my sister. She ended up in an emergency room with IV fluids - she weighed only about 100 pounds and was totally dehydrated.

Summer can be quite harsh out here and several people die every year from it (dehydration mainly). I know it gets hot in Phoenix but somehow that's different because it's a dry heat.

What do you do on such hot days? We don't have a swimming pool but I do love to hit the mall, theater or the library on hot days. It keeps my own a/c down and I enjoy the cooler temperatures at someone else's expense. Sadly, it does not matter what we do, our electricity runs $500-600 a month during the summer. One month we were shocked with an $800-plus bill.

My babies (cats and dogs) are fine on such hot days. I bring them indoors. But if we aren't home, we have constant misters on all over the back yard. (cats always stay in)

My main concern is my mother and others like her. The elderly really suffer during these temps. I have to be extra careful with her.

Hot - Hot - Hot -- heat advisory says to stay indoors. I guess I'll have to do just that.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Midnight Road Short Fiction Contest

Back in April I entered the "Two Lights" contest on Jason Evans' The Clarity of Night. I really never imagined winning anything. I entered only because it sounded like fun. To be honest, I was kind of hoping and praying for an honorable mention.

Imagine my surprise when I read that I had won second place! I framed the photograph I won and keep it by my desk as an inspiration to keep writing. (I also won a nice gift certificate!) But I think what I enjoyed the most was reading the other entries.

Well, if you missed it, Jason is doing it again and I would recommend that anyone who loves to write, give it a shot and enter. Not because of the prizes (though he does have some cool ones) but because it is such fun.

As a result of the last contest, I've met some great people that I now consider "friends" in my cyber world. I really believe that everyone who enters comes out a winner for doing so -- especially if you return to read and comment on the other entries.

Jason has posted a new photo for our inspiration. Click here and you will go straight over to the contest on the The Clarity of Night.

Good luck to you all! I look forward to reading your entries.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Happy Father's Day

My father died shortly after my high school graduation. But I do have James. He is a wonderful father to our three daughters. I am very blessed. :)

Today started a little different. My little sister (Arizona) had a kitchen accident that resulted in second and third-degree burns to both of her hands. She said the skin peeled off. Her 6-year-old son called 911 and an ambulance took her to the hospital.

I immediately started planning a trip to see her. I could drive and be there in 8 hours. And, I planned on taking Jennifer. If necessary, she would stay there to help her (while I'm in New York) and then I would return and pick her up in a couple of weeks.

But as it turned out, things worked out for the better. Her right hand is fine. I was so thankful to God. (Though her left hand is badly burned and she requires a burn-specialist/plastic surgeon. We are still praying for a recovery since she has no movement whatsoever in that hand.)

Since I didn't take off to Arizona, I ended up making a delicious Mexican dinner for James -- fajitas, rice, beans. The rest of the evening we spent outdoors, working in the garden and trimming trees. I know that may not sound like much but I loved today. It was wonderful and the yard looks great.

And, except for my sister's little accident, today was almost a perfect day.

For those of you who may be dads out there - Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Don't ask why, don't ask how ... Love me now

"Until It is Time For You To Go" -- I had forgotten all about this song until Hans commented on it on my Hans post.

It is a song by Buffy Saint Marie. Hans sent it to me once, many years ago. I remember practically tearing apart the package that had arrived from Holland. Hans had told me of how he was driving one day and had heard the song on the radio -- the wording was so appropriate. It was almost as if Ms. Buffy was singing about us -- and we would enjoy what we had until it was time to go. I could not find the song here in the United States, so he bought me the CD and sent it to me.

I listened to the song and it touched me too. The voice was different - almost mesmerizing in its own way -- but I think it was the words that really got me.

I called my best friend at the time -- Liz.
She came over later and she listened to it with tears.

"That is so beautiful," she said. "It's so sad but so beautiful."

The words drifted through the room as we sat there speechless on the bed, listening to the song again and again...

I'm not a king I'm not a saint I'm a man
You're not a queen you're a woman take my hand
We'll make a space in the lives that we planned
And here we'll stay until it's time for you to go

Don't ask why don't ask how
Don't ask forever love me now

This love of mine had no beginning it has no end
I was an oak now I'm a willow now I can bend
And though I'll never in my life see you again
Still I'll stay until it's time for you to go

Don't ask why of me don't ask how of me
Don't ask forever of me love me love me now

I'm not a king I'm not a saint...

"What does all this mean?" I had asked Liz, even though I pretty much knew.

"Don't ask why or how -- just enjoy it until it is time for it to be no more," she answered.

As it turned out, that time came faster than I anticipated. Our time was not long. I did meet my Hans in Holland a few months later, it was sweet, but it did not last. I didn't expect it to. We lived worlds apart - literally. We were also totally different. Even if I wanted to, I could not be a part of his world - it was too different, too wild, too "wrong."

I am glad we met and I never did anything I regretted. But it was time to go.

Now, I can't help but think of how many times couples are faced with similar moments.

Should they just enjoy each other until it is time to go? Or should there be something deeper? Just how much commitment should be expected and when?

Or is it ok sometimes to just enjoy something until it is no more?

I believed in forever once upon a time - but no more. Maybe some day, that will change again.

And though I'll never in my life see you again
Still I'll stay until it's time for you to go

Don't ask why of me don't ask how of me
Don't ask forever of me love me love me now

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The day my daughter almost died

After checking with my daughter, she gave me the go-ahead to write about this. Here she is the day she was finally leaving the hospital.
I watched my teen daughter set out for the pool today. She looked beautiful. Then I noticed the large scar across her abdomen and my heart ached as I remembered the day she almost died - the day my stupidity almost killed her.

It all started on a Wednesday. My daughter came home from school saying she didn’t feel well. She had a fever so I gave her some Tylenol and put her to bed.

By Thursday, she seemed better but I could tell she still did not feel 100-percent. Any other mother might have kept her home. But she had perfect attendance and she asked to be allowed to go to school. I gave in, handed her my cell phone, and asked her to call me if she felt worse.

December 2003 -- a horrible flu epidemic had hit our nation. Emergency rooms were full of sick children. Local newspapers addressed the issue of crowded emergency rooms and long waits – many patients were taking up time, space and beds that were normally allotted for more serious conditions.
Why do people run to the emergency room with every little runny nose and cough, I wondered. As a former E.R. nurse, I saw plenty of cases where a child could benefit with a little Tylenol and rest. In many cases, the visit to the emergency department was not necessary. Of course, I never advised anyone against coming in. "Bring the child in," I would always say.
Sadly, I did not take my own advice. Since I never rush into the emergency room for every little ache or pain, I saw no need to take her in.

Sure enough, the school nurse called me. She told me she had sent several kids home that day with the flu and it looked like Catherine had the same thing.

Friday, my daughter got up and tried to go to school. This time I said no. She didn’t argue with me and went back to bed. Later, I heard her crying out, asking me to help her. I sat up with her, gave her Tylenol, and each time, she'd settle back down. She was not experiencing lower, right-quadrant pain, so I did not believe it was appendicitis. With so many people having the same general stomach-discomfort symptoms, we had no reason to believe it was anything else.

My daughter had a rough night and moaned softly off and on in pain during the night. Each time, warm towels to her abdomen calmed her. She fell asleep. I wanted to take her to the emergency room but her father insisted she was fine and refused to let me take her.

Then came Saturday. 5 a.m. I awoke to loud cries of pain. I rushed to her room and found her in severe agony, almost screaming. She was weak and burning with a fever of 105 degrees. She was pale and turning listless between the cries. I yelled at her father to get out of my way, that If I had to pick her up myself, I was taking her to the hospital.

He physically scooped her up and we rushed the three blocks to the emergency department. Shortly after arriving, she was calm again and sleeping.

Two hours and many tests later, the doctor informed us that it did not look like appendicitis, but she did need to be admitted for observation. But the hospital was full and they said they would keep her in the emergency room until a bed was free -- approximately an additional four hours.

She was slightly medicated and she slept peacefully. She was in good hands, so I stepped out to check on our other two children while her father stayed with her.

I also had a story assigned that day and I was going to Porterville to cover the Zonta Club Christmas Home Tour. I planned on being back by 2 p.m. Everything was under control.
But I didn't get very far. Before I reached the freeway, I got the call no mother ever wants to hear.

“Something’s gone wrong. They want to transfer her to Children’s Hospital,” James said. “Hurry and get back. She's not doing good -- they’ve already called the ambulance.”
How could that be? She was asleep when I left. I rushed to the hospital, hoping to beat the ambulance so that I may ride with her. But there was more bad news -- and all I can remember is hearing something about a "possible code blue" en route if they tried to take her. The doctor called us aside. The transfer had been cancelled. My daughter was drifting in and out of consciousness by now and it was too risky to transport her. There was a possibility that she would not make it to Fresno without coding. (her heart could stop) The doctor said she had no idea what was wrong with her but they needed to take her for emergency exploratory surgery.

I broke down.

What had I done? Why did I wait? Why? Why? Why? I had so many questions, but there was no time for answers.

And just like that, I kissed my little girl as they literally ran the gurney down the hall towards emergency surgery as paper after paper was placed before us to sign.

“It shouldn’t take more than two to three hours,” the surgeon told us as she rushed off.
We waited, hour after hour after hour, in a small waiting room. Every few minutes another family member arrived until the room was packed with praying family members.

Four hours went by...then five hours. "The doctor said two to three hours," I cried. "What is happening?"

Six hours later, the doctor walked in.

Her appendix had burst – perhaps as much as 24 hours prior to surgery. Complications had developed and a long hospital stay was eminent. Because of the severity of the contamination, she could not be stitched close and she had an opening the size of a baseball on her abdomen.

“It was a mess in there,” the doctor said. “She gave us quite a scare. We almost lost her.”

It turned out my daughter did code (cardiovascular arrest / her heart stopped) on the operating table. She was resuscitated. Only by the love and grace of God, did she live.

I stayed by her side – never sleeping for more than four hours a night. But I didn’t care. All I knew was that I almost killed my daughter. I was beating myself up with that thought and prayed for forgiveness -- and prayed for my baby - day and night.

I did not go home for more than two weeks. I slept at the hospital, got up, showered, dressed and I'd leave for work at the newspaper. I'm not even sure anyone at work really knew what I was going through. I would have loved to have taken the time off but we were understaffed. I had only been working at the newspaper for three months and since I was new, I did not feel I had the right to ask for the time off. What can I say? I was stupid.

Day after day, I'd rush to work, write two or three stories as fast as I could and rush back to the hospital. I'd pray and sometimes cry during my commute. I really had no business working.

In the meantime, my daughter lay unconscious. She never opened her eyes and seemed to be in a distant place.

But, God is good. And on day five, we saw a miracle.

My little girl suddenly woke up, looked around, and asked where she was. I was happy I happened to be there when it happened. We laughed and we cried.

She had no recollection of the pain, no recollection of the last five days. No recollection of the surgery. And, after not eating any food for eight days, she announced she was hungry.
My daughter was also surprised to find the numerous tubes that attached her body to the wall and to machines. She looked at her large abdominal bandages and puzzled, looked up at me and asked, “What happened?”

I turned away for a brief moment so that she would not see my tears - or my guilt.

What could I say? That I thought she had the flu? That even after realizing how serious it was, I hadn't taken her to get medical help? That my delay in obtaining medical intervention almost cost us her life?

“Hi baby,” I whispered to her as I brushed a wisp of hair away from her face. “I’ve been waiting for you to wake up.”

After being hospitalized for 15 days, we brought her home -- two days before Christmas.
At first her pediatrician was recommending an additional week in the hospital -- but since her father and I are both in the medical field, and we live down the street from the hospital -- they let us take her home. We just wanted her home for Christmas. Plus, they were not doing anything that we couldn't do.
My daughter missed an additional month of school. But she still amazed us. She made up all of her school work and still graduated at the top of her class - valedictorian of her school. She's definitely another miracle child. I remember rushing out Christmas Eve to get a tree. We had a lot to be thankful for that year.

Monday, June 05, 2006

3-Gun Volley Salute, Taps and an unforgettable funeral

(photo by John Tipton / The Porterville Recorder)

I attended Jacqueline's and Alex's funeral today. It was beautiful and heart breaking.

I was surprised to see that they were both buried together -- in the same coffin, which was draped with two American flags.

I had heard of this kind of thing only once but it was a mother and young infant. But, apparently the two youngsters were burned to death . The car exploded in flames after the accident and it was almost impossible to tell who was who.

Sunday night's service had more than 1,000 people there -- many of them were high school kids. Jacqueline and Alex were both active in sports at Monache High and she was also a cheerleader there. She was so full of life and so outgoing!

There was plenty of representation from the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marines and they had full military honors -- complete with a 3-gun volley salute.

Taps always gets to me. It gave me chills as they played it.

As the service ended, 17 white helium-filled balloons (she was 17) and 21 red ones (his age) were let go and the Chaplain announced that the service had concluded. One of the mothers started wailing loudly for her baby. It was a very touching and emotional moment.

Such a sad day for the families and friends of Alex and Jacqueline. My heart goes out to them.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Shattered Dreams - Broken Hearts

I can't even begin to imagine what a mother from church is feeling right now. I don't ever want to know. Our entire church is in mourning.

A sweet, sweet girl - age 17 - was to graduate from high school yesterday. She was engaged to be married to a great guy who graduated a couple of years ago. He was in the Marines and she had enrolled in the U.S. Navy. They had their entire lives ahead of them - or so we thought.

He was in town for her graduation and both were killed four days before the graduation (on Memorial Day) in a most unfortunate fiery car accident.

Monache High's graduation last night (I was not present but heard) was touching. All of her classmates cried for her. Both had been quite involved in MHS sports. She was also a MHS cheerleader.

The church is crying too. Yes, we know that being absent from the body is to be present with the Lord -- but that does not make the pain any less. Comforting, yes. Less painful, no.

My heart breaks for her mother. It is always painful to lose a child but to lose a child who is about to graduate ... after you have seen that child excel.... I have no words. Only sadness and shock right now.

My youngest daughter, Jennifer, graduates from middle school next week.

I watched her sleep this morning and gently touched her cheek. I am so thankful for my children and wish that I could protect them always.

This tragedy reminds me again that life is precious.

Rest in peace, Jacqueline and Alex. God bless your sweet souls.